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WBB: Texas A&M Edges Alabama 59-56

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The Women's Bouncy Ball team was literally hard to watch for much of the game due to technical difficulties, but escaped from Bama with a 59-56 win.

Jordan Jones showed why she's the 2-time SEC defensive player of the year
Jordan Jones showed why she's the 2-time SEC defensive player of the year
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC Network has spoiled me. I take for granted being able to stream all kinds of stuff via the online SECN+ network. It was not that long ago that only having radio for road games was the norm. But I've gotten used to the new normal... watching the Aggie Women online.

So when the WatchESPN service suffered some kind of outage on Thursday night, I spent a large part of the game ranting at ESPN, while listening to the game on the radio and trying to figure out what was going on. As I write this, the stream is still broken on my AppleTV, and while the replay is on my iPad, it consists of 9 minutes of commercials followed by the very end of the first half.

First quarter

The Ags started with the same lineup used while Courtney Williams has been resting and trying to recover from her stress reaction in her back. During the week, Coach Blair said that CWill would be available, but not ready to take Chelsea Jennings' place in the starting 5. So it was Khaalia Hillsman, Anriel Howard, Jennings, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones on the floor in the tiny Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa.

Bama scored first following a turnover, but the Ags started off hot by going on an 8-0 run to take the early lead. A 3-pointer by Jones made it 17-6 with 3:57 to go and the Ags finished the quarter up 9. This sounded good, especially since Bama was playing zone with a quick team.

19-10 A&M after the first.

Second quarter

The Ags went cold and got outscored 16-13 in the quarter. What did the team look like? No idea.

32-26 at halftime. The stats do say that the Ags shot 42.4% in the half and turned it over 10 times. The shooting came mainly from Jones, who had 9 points on 4-7 shooting with a 3 pointer. Jones added 5 assists against 2 turnovers. A&M dominated the boards 23-12. Karyla Middlebrook, the Bama PG, led all scorers with 11.

Third quarter

Video was back to start the second half.

I think Bama played zone in the first half, but they were in a man D on the first Aggie possession of the second half. The result was a foul that allowed Khaalia to hit 1 of 2. They were in a 2-3 zone after that. Bama and the Ags went into their zone offense funk as the Tide whittled down the lead. They  tied the game at the 7:40 mark when Shaquera Wade banked in a 3-pointer from the left side. It looked like Bama would take the lead on the next possession when Middlebrook ran through most of the Aggie D, turning Walker around on a move to her right, cutting into the middle of the floor. But Jones had anticipated and took a charge in the lane. Both teams stayed stuck at 33 until Walker hit a pull up J to make it 35-33. Bama answered immediately to tie at 35 as Breanna Hayden drove under the basket and hit Wade cutting into the lane. Jennings retook the lead on a pair of FTs, and Blair went to a small lineup subbing CWill for Rachel.  Bama answered with a basked by Meoshonti Knight to tie the game at 37.

It looked like the smaller group would work and the Ags might assert control when Jones hit her second 3 pointer and CWiill scored twice in the paint to stretch the lead to 44-37. But Bama wouldn't go away. Middlebrook made a 3 to start a 7-0 run that tied the game going into the final period.

44-44 after the third. After dominating the first quarter, the Ags lost the middle two quarters.

Fourth quarter

The teams started the quarter by trading turnovers. CWill drew a foul on a fast break after the Bama turnover and made 1 of 2. A pair of FTs by Walker a little later made it a 3 point A&M lead, continuing the pattern of A&M getting a lead and Bama fighting back but not getting over the hump.

Bama broke through when Hannah Cook tipped the ball away from Walker to trigger a 3 on 1 fast break finished by Hayden. 51-49 with 6:17 to go. No problem, plenty of time, right? But would the Ags step up offensivelty? Not yet. A&M could only manage 1 point on a FT by CWill for almost 4 minutes. When Howard picked up a foul and Hannah Cook made 2 FTs, the Tide had built a 6 point lead with 2:30 remaining and the Ags just looking ineffective.

But the one Ag who had been making clutch shots all game long was Jones. She drained her 3rd 3 pointer from the right side to cut the lead in half. 56-53 with 2:16 remaining. The Ags pressed and forced Bama to use a timeout after Jones deflected the ball, forcing Hayden to pick up her dribble on the sideline. After the timeout, Bama ran a weave to set up Middlebrook to drive the left baseline. But Jones cut her off and Jennings picked off a pass intended for Cook in the right corner. Walker scored in transition to cut it to 56-55. 1:40 remaining.

The Ags got a stop and Blair called a timeout with 37.4 seconds left. On the video, you can see Jones take the marker and draw a play. Williams took the inbounds pass on the left side and passed to Walker in the middle. Jennings set a pick at the FT line for Walker who took the jumper for the lead ... and missed.

Bama got the rebound and with the clock below 30 seconds the Ags had to foul Middlebrook. It looked bad at this point. 23.1 left, down 1. The leading scorer for the game, a 79% FT shooter, at the line. But Middlebrook missed both. The Ags came down the floor and ran basically the same play. Jones passed to CWill on the left side. CWill passed to Walker at the top of the key. Jennings came out to set a screen on the right edge of the FT line. But Walker refused the screen and crossed over for one of her trademark pull-up jumpers from the left side of the lane. Ags up 1 57-56 with 7.3 left after Bama used their final timeout to set up the final play and advance the inbounds pass to the front court.

The Ags had the lead, but Bama had been fighting back all game and had plenty of time to score and get the upset. Bama wanted to go to Hegstetter according to the SECN sideline reporter, and they set up a pick and roll with Hegstetter and Middlebrook. The Ags were playing switch on everything D. Bama set up with Middlebrook making the inbounds pass with Jones hanging back. Knight was in the left corner covered by Danni. Cook was in the right corner covered by Jennings. Hegstetter and Bolton were up top covered by CWill and Howard.  Bama ran a cross at the top of the key to get CWill onto Bolton and Howard on Hegstetter. Bolton received the inbounds pass from Middlebrook, who dribbled right to set up a pick and roll against CWill and Howard. Meanwhile Jones was playing off of Bolton. was on Hegstetter. Hegstetter set a pick at the top of the key on CWill and tried to roll into the lane. CWill and Jones double teamed her, taking away the primary play. But this left the quicker Middlebrook one on one with Anriel, and Middlebrook drove around Howard and put up a floater just outside the lane near the right baseline.

The ball went off the glass and through the net as the crowd went wild ... and then the crowd noticed referee Cameron Inouye on the right side of the court making the signal for an offensive foul. Because as Middleton was focused on getting around Anriel, Jordan Jones had come off of Hegstetter and beaten Middleton to the spot outside the no-charge arc.

Jones takes charge

No basket. 1.8 seconds left.

Bama Coach Kristi Curry got called for a technical for leaving the bench to protest the call.  Walker hit both FTs and the Ags got the ball after the technical. CWill got the inbounds pass and the Ags escaped with a win in yet another wild ending.

Final Score: Ags 59, Bama 56

Overall

  • Obvious MVP of the game was Jordan Jones. She led the Ags in scoring with 15 on 6-11 shooting, had 5 assists, 3 steals, and took something like 4 charges. The last was clearly the game winner, and in reviewing the stream, it seemed like she cut off both options on the same pick and roll. The one negative for Jones is that she was 0-2 from the FT line.
  • Courtney Walker had 14 points on 5-10 shooting. She's only missed double figures in 1 game this season, and it was the 93rd time in her career she's had 10+ points. The 14 on Thursday gave here 348 for the season and 1,447 for her career to date.
  • Jennings played 32 minutes despite going 0-9 from the field and scoring just 2 pts on 2 FTs. But she tied Anriel Howard for the lead in rebounding with 9, and was mainly responsible for shutting down Bama's leading scorer for the season, Hannah Cook.
  • Courtney Williams played 19 minutes including crunch time and had 9 points and 3 boards.
  • Quanterial Bolton led Bama in scoring with 16 points off the bench.  Karyla Middlebrook added 15 points on 6-10 shooting. Unfortunately, she'll probably remember this game for missing two FTs and committing the final charge.
  • The Ags outrebounded the Tide 41-28. The Ags scored 20 off turnovers but only had 4 points on fast breaks.
  • S. Carolina remained unbeaten by taking care of Ole Miss. The Ags are in sole possession of second place in the SEC, 2.5 games back and 0.5 games ahead of Vic Shaefer's MSU Bulldogs, who had a come from behind win to beat Tennessee for the first time ever in WBB.

Up Next

  • #2 S. Carolina
  • 5PM CST Sunday January 31, 2016
  • Reed Arena
  • TV: ESPN2; Radio KZNE 1150 AM/102.7 FM

We've previewed S. Carolina's players before the game in Columbia, so I won't update the stats. The bottom line is that they have exceptional bigs in Wilson and Coates, and the reigning SEC player of the year in Tiffany Mitchell. A&M and Miss State each neutralized a subset of these threats but neither was able to knock the Gamecocks from the ranks of the unbeatens despite coming tantalizingly close. The Gamecocks are in the toughest part of their schedule with the Ags, Kentucky, and UConn as their next three games.

With the men playing Iowa State at home on Saturday it may be hard to get people to return to Reed on Sunday afternoon. But there's no NFL and its a matchup of two top 10 teams. It would be nice to get a good crowd to help rally the team to BTHO the Game Hens.